Are Irish eyes always smiling?…An Irish Happiness Lesson

I’m now back on “our” side of the Atlantic, having spent the past week in London and the weekend in Dublin. The husband had some business to attend to in London (I had some resting and rejuvenating to attend to), after which we headed to Dublin for a long weekend of no-business and continued R&R. (Yes, all that R&R *is* hard work, but I do what I must for the team.)

It was my first time back in London since 1991 when I blew through town with pal MA and a backpack. This time, my visit was decidedly different. The business part of the London stay was headquartered at The Dorchester — nearby to Hyde Park, Kensington (and Harrods) and Buckingham Palace. Although the weather wasn’t great, I utilized the “hop on, hop off” red bus city tour and really saw a ton of history, monuments to kings and admirals, memorials to executions of good guys and rebels (“Look kids! Big Ben!”). They sure do love their history in London. It was a great trip.

The highlight — what I had been looking forward to the most and what was, in fact, the most fun of the week — was exploring Dublin. When we had traveled to Ireland two and a half years ago we were based on the west coast, in and around Galway, and only spent an afternoon in Dublin (the Guinness Storehouse was the focus of the day trip back then). This time we had a solid 48 hours to get to know the city, and I think we did a great job. Again, the on/off bus tour was invaluable, and we were able to move quickly and easily between the sights of the city. There were parts of Dublin that I had never heard about, much less felt the need to visit (Phoenix Park, anyone? Two NY Central Parks would fit in there!) — and we were able to at least make a cursory visit to a good number of them.

So of course Christ Church Cathedral is lovely, and the Jameson Factory is interesting, and the Long Room at Trinity is incredible…but the real magic of Dublin (and Ireland) resides in the people themselves. To a person, they must be the friendliest, warmest people that I’ve ever run across. It’s amazing, really. Ireland is, economically, struggling through some very hard times at the moment — in fact, they are being even harder hit than the US these days — and you would never know it by talking with the people on the street, in the shops, in the pubs. Everyone just seems….happy. There’s probably a joke in there somewhere about enough Guinness or Jameson’s and anyone would feel happy, but that is too simplistic. It’s as if happiness is programmed in them somehow.

When a shopkeeper or tour guide would ask where I was from, their responses were enthusiastic. (“New Jersey! I love New Jersey!” Ummm, oookay…) The next two questions would *always* follow: “How long are you staying in Dublin?” and “Are you having a good visit here?” Everyone was interested in what I thought of Dublin, and they were all concerned that we were enjoying ourselves enough.  They were all seemingly delighted when we told them we were having a blast.

[As an aside, I like to ask obvious foreigners, when I run across them in our area, where they’re from. I think that’s interesting. However, it has never occurred to me to inquire if they were having a good visit, enjoying themselves, having fun. But the Irish seem to take it as a personal responsiblity — which leads me to wonder if I had said, “No, we’re not having a good time at all,” what would have happened.]

I was telling someone today that I admired how happy everyone was — the taxi driver, the barman at the pub, the concierge at the hotel. Everyone was just….happy. Because we were not visiting at high tourist season, the pubs were full of natives sharing a pint and a laugh (and a song, at least in one of the pubs). As a visitor, I could get a sense of a “real” Dublin — not jammed with foreigners on a Saturday night, just “regular” people out to have a good time. It got me really thinking how lucky they all were — I couldn’t imagine being present to all that *happiness* in Ireland and being grumpy. Certainly they must get their bad days, but I couldn’t find anybody having one during our 48 hour blitz of the city!

So, yes, we’re home now — right back in the swing of things. It’s been raining for 24 hours, there’s flooding everywhere, the kids are squirrely, the dogs are muddy, my desk is a mess…but let me pull out my map of Dublin and see if I can find the happiness tucked into the city’s corners. And okay, I’ll take a pint while I’m doing that.

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